South Asia’s Changing Connectivity
The political and economic concept of South Asia, which is represented by SAARC is challenged both by external and internal developments. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has increased China’s presence in the region, and India has revitalized regional organisations like BIMSTEC instead of SAARC.
· Meena Singh Roy Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) (New Delhi, India)
Traditionally, the relations between India and Pakistan are at the heart of any discussion about South Asia. In the broader regional context, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is seen as the main analytical frame to deal with political, economic, and security issues in the region. But new developments seem to undermine this traditional approach. First, India and Pakistan, as the main political actors are continuing to distance themselves from each other. India’s focus is shifting towards the Indo-Pacific mainly because of China’s rise and its repercussions. Pakistan has expanded its relations with China and Russia. Moreover, developments in the Middle East are becoming more important for Pakistan which has intensified relations with Saud-Arabia. Second, large scale infrastructure projects and new regional institutions are cutting across the traditional structure of SAARC. Projects like BRI, the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTEC), and the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) corridor will probably contribute more to economic integration among South Asian countries than SAARC and its modest economic initiatives have ever done. Moreover, India is fostering sub-regional formats like BBIN and revitalized regional institutions like BIMSTEC that are also attractive for other SAARC members. The different developments point to a different understanding of what South Asia which is no longer necessary be defined neither by the India Pakistan relationship nor by SAARC. The panel welcomes contributions that analyse these developments form different national and international perspectives.